– Members of a syndicate alleged to be illegally managing more than 100 sex workers at brothels across Melbourne have been arrested in raids by federal and Victoria Police.
Police swooped on addresses across the city on Tuesday, arresting five people and charging them with living off the proceeds of crime. It is alleged the syndicate made more than $500,000 in the past five months.
The five people arrested included Mae Ja Kim, who is believed by police to be the central figure in the syndicate and has been linked previously to the Top on Tope brothel.
Photographs taken in Ms Kim’s luxury Southbank apartment show massed rows of perfume bottles, ranks of luxury shoes and designer handbags and two safes. But Ms Kim was dressed in a more casual grey tracksuit top when she was led away by police.
Fairfax Media and the ABC’s ‘Four Corners’ program revealed in 2011 that police were investigating claims that legal brothels in Melbourne were being infiltrated by organised criminals, who allegedly used them as a front for human trafficking and sex slavery.
The people arrested on Tuesday were allegedly managing brothels despite being unlicensed, by using frontmen who did not have licences. The brothels allegedly run by the syndicate include Top on Tope and Shop 39, both in South Melbourne, Tender Touch in West Melbourne and the Candy Club in Richmond.
An Australian Federal Police spokesman said that after investigations police might recommend to the Business Licensing Authority – which regulates brothels – that the brothels’ licences be cancelled or suspended.
Police executed 13 search warrants on Tuesday at the four brothels, houses and other businesses in South Melbourne, West Melbourne, Richmond, Southbank, Clayton, Flemington, Donvale and the CBD.
They seized about $1 million worth of assets, including four apartments in the CBD, Southbank and Donvale and three luxury cars.
A man named De Jun “Kevin” Zheng is awaiting trial for the murder of 27-year-old Adrian Papo outside Top on Tope in February 2009.
Mr Zheng bashed Mr Papo to death after the young man tried to help his girlfriend, a Korean prostitute and alleged sex slave, escape from the brothel, but Mr Zheng told police he acted in self-defence after Mr Papo had attacked him and no charges were initially laid.
Police reopened the investigation into the killing after fresh information uncovered by Fairfax Media was given to the State Coroner and the Office of Public Prosecutions. Mr Zheng was charged in July last year with Mr Papo’s murder.
Top on Tope was then partly destroyed by fire in August 2010 in what police believe was an arson attack linked to a turf war between sex industry figures implicated in human trafficking and sex slavery.
Fairfax Media reported in 2011 that two AFP investigations has identified at least three Melbourne brothels and two in Sydney linked to an international sex slavery ring.
AFP coordinator crime operations Ian Bate said the success of the latest operation, codenamed Kitrino, was the result of a partnership between the AFP and Victoria Police.
Victoria Police Crime Command Detective Superintendent Rod Jouning praised the AFP.
“These crimes are particularly difficult to investigate but the AFP has shown they have the expertise to gather the evidence required to bring these individuals to justice,” Superintendent Jouning said.
“Victoria Police has been working with the AFP for many years now and this is yet another example of how collaborative law enforcement can have successful outcomes.”
The five people arrested on Tuesday will appear in court on Wednesday morning – Dan Oakes

About Jumpin' Jack Cash

Deep connections are the most important aspect of my existence. I don’t care if people don’t know what they want. I love books. I’m cynical of love stories, although I’m romantic. I adore gardens. I like women who challenge me. I love the rain as an excuse to stay inside and dream. I'm furiously impatient. If I ask you a question best to tell me the truth as I'm likely to already know the answer. I'm a carnivore. I continuously underestimate the magic of fresh flowers in my home. I love warm rain in the summer. My mood elevates to epic proportions when the sun shines. Tell me not to do something and I'll do it twice and take photos. Running is my antidepressant. I loathe lies. I rarely forgive a lie. Loyalty and honesty are my most noble virtues, and I value them more than anything in other people. I love to love, and am able to fall in love very quickly, although it's only ever happened once. I understood myself and fixed myself only after destroying myself. My greatest excitement comes from deliberately getting lost in foreign cities. I can be extremely loud and frighteningly silent. I hate insinuations. I love storms. Justice for all. I'm a proud man, but welcome the influence of the feminine soul. I have two sisters. I’m a dreamer. I’m a deep thinker. Don’t deal with guilt trips or drama that well. I'm extremely stubborn and persistent. I'm brilliant at keeping secrets. I love driving. I become absolutely and completely lost while watching a burning fire. When the toast pops from the toaster I’m never ready and shit myself. I play the guitar, but require much improvement. Solitude and warmth of the sun are perfect together. I’ve been married once and now divorced. I’m a music junkie. Chocolate mousse is the shit. I curse too much. I find it difficult to make friends. I spent four years as a firefighter. I’ve run my own company since 1991. Bright lights, big cities. I’ve been an executive producer of a feature film. Some people don’t care, and that’s the biggest let-down of the human race. There are cures and solutions for many evils, but no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings. The sound of the Italian language being spoken is as good as my favourite music. I hate corrupt cops. I relentlessly and passionately pursue anybody and anything that sets my soul on fire. I'm a dog lover, and all my dogs are considered family members. I have an obsession with photography. I have some close friends who are household names, but shall always remain anonymous. I’m crazy but not lazy. Losing a soulmate has hurt me badly. My two young sons are the nucleus of my universe. I love airports. I love freedom. If you are dishonest or disloyal, I can erase you from my life and memory immediately and permanently. I yearn to explore, dream about and discover as many friendships, deep connections and places, one possibly can in a lifetime.
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